JUN 19, 2018 09:30 PM PDT

Cancer-Related Cognitive Impairment aka "ChemoBrain" Needs YOU!

With so many cancer patients receiving therapies for treatment, there is a late effect being regularly experienced in a wide variety of patients called Cancer-Related Cognitive Impairment (CRCI) or Post Cancer Cognitive Impairment (PCCI).  The American Cancer Society indicates that as of January 2016, there were 15.5 million people with a history of having cancer in the United States.  It is estimated that worldwide, 14.1 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually with this number growing every successive year.  CRCI is often referred to as “chemobrain” or “chemofog”.  It’s estimated that nearly 75% of cancer patients may be affected by this issue.  So, of the 15.5 million people in the US with a history of cancer, roughly 11.6 million will likely experience some aspect of it. 

What is it?

CRCI is a state of reduced mental functioning long after cancer treatment has commenced.  Patients have reported bouts of short- and long-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, confusion, and difficulty finding words to finish sentences, among other symptoms.  Some investigations suggest that the impairment may start during cancer’s progression, rather than being a true result of treatment.  

Does it last long?

Unfortunately, because CRCI is not well understood, it is difficult to predict how long it might last if a patient is experiencing it.  Equally difficult is predicting who will be affected and when.  This condition can begin as early as during treatment or even 5-10 years after treatment has finished.  It has lasting effects on survivors’ quality of life.

Treatment options

Symptoms of CRCI can only be managed by making adjustments to routines to help minimize the effects.  Most recommend writing dates into a calendar and making notes or to-do lists for tasks.  Keeping a journal of symptoms can help pinpoint if there are certain activities or times of the day that are harder like in the evening when one might be more tired and less able to focus.  There is research in the literature suggesting that physical and mental exercises can reduce the “fog” affecting cognitive functioning.  At this time, there is no drug approved to help reduce the impairment or decrease symptoms experienced.   

Future of CRCI

Currently, CRCI is recognized as a condition that cancer patients and cancer survivors face.  In a recent forum article in Trends in Neurosciences, the authors write that they are looking for a neuroscience approach to CRCI.  There is a need for clinical neuropsychologists and neuroscience researchers to collaborate and develop approach models for individuals experiencing this condition.  As detection and recognition of this condition improves, research can hopefully be designed to illuminate the factors at play and provide solutions for affected individuals who have already dealt with so much as cancer patients.  If you are affected by this condition, talk to your provider in order to increase awareness of CRCI.  If you are a researcher or provider, consider how your expertise could contribute to the body of knowledge related to this condition.  Understanding the mechanisms involved and finding potential solutions will have a lasting impact on millions of people now and in future generations.   

Sources: American Cancer Society, Trends in Neuroscience, Supportive and Palliative Care, International Review of Psychiatry, Psycho-Oncology, Journal of the National Cancer Institute,

About the Author
  • Mauri S. Brueggeman is a Medical Laboratory Scientist and Educator with a background in Cytogenetics and a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota. She has worked in the clinical laboratory, taught at the University of Minnesota, and been in post secondary healthcare education administration. She is passionate about advances and leadership in science, medicine, and education.
You May Also Like
JUN 20, 2018
Cancer
JUN 20, 2018
Peruvian Plant's Unique Anti-Tumor Biological Mechanism Discovered
Plagiochiline A is a molecule that exhibits antiproliferative properties and is cytotoxic. New research outlines the unique biological mechanism valued as possible cancer therapy target....
JUL 31, 2018
Cancer
JUL 31, 2018
Protein Regulation of DNA Replication in Cancer Cells - A New Early Target for Broad Therapeutics?
DNA replication is a carefully regulated process in each cell of the body. Researchers are looking at the mechanism of DNA replication and associated proteins as a therapy target in cancer...
AUG 10, 2018
Immunology
AUG 10, 2018
Cancer Cell 'Drones' Battle Immune System
Cancer cells release PD-L1 containing exosomes that circulate in the blood and stop T cells before they can reach tumors....
AUG 26, 2018
Cancer
AUG 26, 2018
Can antireflux surgery prevent Esophageal cancer?
Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a widespread health problem affecting 10 to 20% of adults in Western populations. If GERD left untre...
SEP 14, 2018
Health & Medicine
SEP 14, 2018
Can You Get Addicted to Tanning at the Gym?
Do you know what GTL means? If you're a fan of the reality series "The Jersey Shore" then you know it stands for "Gym, Tan, Laundry"...
SEP 20, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 20, 2018
Liquid Phase Separation may Play a Role in Cancer
Not all liquids mix, like oil and water; the phenomenon is called liquid-liquid phase separation. We're learning more about its role in cells....
Loading Comments...